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Computation of Average Rainfall over a Basin: To compute the average rainfall over a catchment area or basin, rainfall is measured

at a number of gauges by suitable type of measuring devices. A rough idea of the number of the needed rain gauges to be installed in a practical area is depending on experience of the hydrologist although this was determined by the regulation of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). In areas where more than one rain gauge is established, following methods may be employed to compute the average rainfall: Arithmetic average method Weighing mean method or Thiessen polygon method Isohyetal method.

5.3.1 Arithmetic Average Method: This is the simplest method of computing the average rainfall over a basin. As the name suggests, the result is obtained by the division of the sum of rain depths recorded at different rain gauge stations of the basin by the number of the stations. If the rain gauges are uniformly distributed over the area and the rainfall varies in a very regular manner, the results obtained by this method will be quite satisfactory and will not differ much than those obtained by other methods. This method can be used for the storm rainfall, monthly or annual rainfall average computations.

Example: During a storm the rainfall observations in a selected basin were found as follows: Table 3: Computation of average precipitation over a basin using Arithmetic mean method Station No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Total [mm] Precipitation in [mm] 15 19 20 16.6 22 28 120.6 Average precipitation [mm] P = 120.6/6 = 30.1 mm

5.3.2 Thiessen Polygon Method This is the weighted mean method. The rainfall is never uniform over the entire area of the basin or catchment, but varies in intensity and duration from place to place. Thus the rainfall recorded by each rain gauge station should be weighted according to the area, it represents. This method is more suitable under the following conditions: followed: For areas of moderate size. When rainfall stations are few compared to the size of the basin. In moderate rugged areas. For the construction of the polygon, the following procedure is to be

Figure (1):Basin and location of stations P1 P2 P4 P3 P5 Step 1: Draw the area concerned to a suitable scale, showing its boundary, locations of the raingauges in the area and outside but close to the boundary

P6 P7

Figure (2): Drawing of the triangles P1 P2 P4 P3

P5 Step 2: Join location of the raingauges to form a network of triangles P7


Figure (3): Drawing the perpendicular bi-sectors of the triangles

P1 P2 P4 P3


P6 P7

Step 3: Draw perpendicular bisectors to the triangle sides. These bisectors form polygons

around the stations

Figure (4): Drawing of the polgons P1

Step 4: Delineate the formed polygons and measure their areas using a planimeter or by converting them into smaller regular geometric shapes (i.e. triangles, squares, rectangles, etc.)

A A2 P2 A4 P4 P3 A6 P6


A5 P5

A7 P7

Step 5: Compute the average rainfall using the following formula P1xA1 + P2 xA2 +... + PnxAn A1 + A2 + .... + An

Pav =

If the calculated or measured sectional areas of the polygon, and the measured precipitation are given by the values presented in the following table (3) below.

Table (4): Bi-sectional areas (A) of Theissen polygon, and the measured precipitation (P) for stations Station No. Bi-sectional areas (Ai) [km2] P1 P2 P3 P4 P5 P6 P7 Total 25 125 80 90 120 115 130 685 Measured precipitation (Pi) [mm] 10 15 20 17 25 40 12 250 1875 1600 1530 3000 4600 1560 14415 (Col. 2 * Col. 3) (Ai *Pi)

Then the average precipitation over the catchment will be computed by the total of the column 4 to the total area in column 2. The result will be found as: 21.04 mm.

isoyetal Method: An isohyetal is a line joining places where the rainfall amounts are equal on a rainfall map of a basin. An isohyetal map showing contours of equal rainfall is more accurate picture of the rainfall over the basin. This method is more suited under the following conditions:

For hilly and rugged areas. For large areas over 5000 km2. For areas where the network of rainfall stations within the storm area is sufficiently dense, isohyetal method gives more accurate distribution of rainfall.

For explaining of drawing an isohyetal map for a basin, the following procedure is usually applied:

Step 1: Draw the area under study to scale and mark rain gauges on it. Put at each of the raingauge location the recorded values of rainfall at the station, for the period within which the average is required to be determined.

Figure (5): basin and rainfall stations


Step 2: Draw the isohyetes of various values by considering the point rainfall data as guidelines and interpolating between them. Also, incorporate the knowledge of
orographic effects.

Figure (6): Drawing the isohyetal lines

Step 3: Determine the area between each pair of the isohyet lines, either by a planimeter or by converting the areas into smaller regular geometric shapes.

Step 4: Calculate the average rainfall using the following formula: A1 (P1 + P2)/2 + A2 (P2 + P3)/2 + . . . + An-1(Pn-1 + Pn)/2 Pav = (A1 + A2 + . . . + An) Pi = Value of Isohyet lines
Ai = Area between pair of isohyet lines.

Example: Calculate the average rainfall over the area given in the figure using Isohyetal method.
Table (5): Rainfall computation by Isohyetal Method
Isohyet (mm) Area Between Isohyets (sq.Km) 33.28 197.12 296.96 501.76 494.11 79.36 1602.59 Average Rainfall (mm) 125.0 112.5 87.5 62.5 37.5 21.0 Rainfall volume (col 3 x col4) (mm-Sq.Km) 4,160.00 22,176.00 25,984.00 31,360.00 18,529.13 1,666.56 103,875.69


25 48.7 68.3

50 75 100 125 49.5

125 100 75 50 25 less 25 Total




44 map

Figure (7): Isohyetal

Pav = 103, 875.69/1,602.59 = 64.82 mm

Comparison Between the Three Methods: Arithmetic mean method: 1- This is the simplest and easiest method to compute average rainfall. 2- In this method every station has equal weight regardless its location. 3- If the recording stations and rainfall is uniformly distributed over the entire catchment, then this method is equally accurate. Thiessen method 1-This method is also mechanical 2-In this method the rainfall stations located at a short distance beyond the boundary of drainage are also used to determine the mean rainfall of the basin, but their influence diminishes as the distance from the boundary increases. 3-It is commonly used for flat and low rugged areas. Isohyetal method: 1- It is the best method for rugged areas and hilly regions. 2- It is the most accurate method if the contours are drawn correctly. However to obtain the best results good judgment in drawing the isohyets and in assigning the proper mean rainfall values to the area between them is required. 3- Other points are as for Thiessen method.

Summary for Basin Average Rainfall Analysis Techniques The Isohyetal method allows the use of judgment and experience in drawing the contour map. The accuracy is largely dependent on the skill of the person performing the analysis and the number of gauges. If simple linear interpolation between stations is used for drawing the contours, the results will be essentially the same as those obtained by the Thiessen method. The advantages of both the Thiessen and Isohyetal methods can be combined where the area closes to the gauge is defined by the polygons but the rainfall over that area is defined by the contours from the Isohyetal method. This combination also eliminates the disadvantage of having to draw different polygon patterns when analyzing several different storm events with a variety of reporting gauges. Regardless of the technique selected for analysis of basin average rainfall, a regional map of areal distribution for the total storm event is also produced.